Category Archives: Aspies in the Workplace.

Aspies: Building Upon Success

One day my older daughter came home from school, excited to show us that she had just learned how to do cartwheels. Beverly demonstrated this new ability several times, making it look easy.  Her younger sister, Suzanne, wanted to try doing cartwheels, too. But each time she tried she fell over sideways, and after a few attempts she stopped trying.

Watching from the kitchen window, I saw her disappointment.  Quickly drying my hands, I went out to her.

“I can’t do cartwheels,” she said, visibly upset.

“Oh, I’m sure you can!  It just takes practice.”

Bev told us how: “Try to picture where your body is when it’s in the air. Think about where you want your legs to be, and how you want to land.”  We all tried it together.

Sue and I landed in a crumpled heap.  Sue laughed at seeing her Mom try something  only kids usually do.

We kept at it.  Finally we both did cartwheels, keeping our legs straight and landing cleanly.  Bev congratulated us on our success.

Such a small moment in our lives. But what a powerful impact that learning experience had for me!

Weeks later I was offered the position of Director of a small museum and art gallery on an interim basis.  I had very little experience, having worked there only part time for a few months the previous year. I also had no office experience, let alone administrative experience. And new exhibits were coming into the gallery!  My first reaction was to refuse.

Then I remembered the cartwheel experience. Was everything really that simple? I wondered.

If so, then I could break the museum job down into a few basic steps. I needed to understand what was required of me, visualize how that could be done and then put those proceesses into effect.

In the six months that I was Interim Director I used every resource at hand.  My volunteers were women who had retired from various professional positions and one of them set up the office administration.  When she reviewed the system with me we fine tuned it together.

When I found an infestation in one of the permanent displays, I conferred with a UBC professor who advised me on how to deal with the current problem and prevent future similar issues.

Professionals from other galleries gave me advice on hanging, lighting and installing exhibits.

Did I celebrate this success?  I’m not sure, so probably not.  Yet that is what experts tell us to do.

A celebration is an acknowledgement that actively reinforces our understanding of our ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

The rite of celebration ensures that we will be more confident, ready and even eager to accept the next challenge.

What are your recent successes?

Maybe it was something very simple like phoning to get the interest rate on your credit card reduced. Were you polite, positive, and interacting well with the agent on the phone?

Perhaps it was a successful coffee date with a friend.  Did you listen attentively and engage with their train of thought?

Or maybe it was something more difficult, like taking a test which required weeks of preparation, or completing a long-term project.  What steps did you take to help make success possible?

However simple or complex, when you do well, acknowledge your success!

We can tend to focus on what went wrong.  When you do so, learn from it!  What will you do differently next time?

As when doing cartwheels, looking at why you failed is important to the next success. Temporary failure is only a negative if you get stuck on blaming yourself.

Instead, think of what you could have done differently, and visualize it happening. Just like having floppy legs when doing cartwheels, acknowledge the problem, clearly imagine the adjustments you will make, and move on.

When we focus upon and acknowledge our achievements we help to ensure many more successes in the future!


The One That Got Away: An Aspie’s Sales Nightmare

When a topic fascinates us, we Aspies can talk for hours.

Unfortunately, speaking in itself, does not constitute a conversation.

It is listening to someone else and then responding to their information that allows for an exchange of ideas.

This can be a hard lesson for us Aspies to learn.

I once had a book published on tax; on money that people receive when they are downsized and what happens to them tax-wise when they do.  I called it Jack and Stanley’s Buyout Adventure.

A human resource manager called.  He had read the book and wondered if I would come and talk to him about doing seminars for his employees.  He worked for a mining company and the mine was shutting down.

I drove all the way up to Logan Lake from the coast and met a very pleasant man.  One who told me he had read the book all the way through just to find out what happened to Jack and Stanley in the end.

That book, as well as being about income tax, was also my first published attempt at characterization and I was flattered to hear it so well received.

In response, I spoke for what seems in retrospect, an hour without once asking him what he and the employees needed.

I’ve been over it a thousand times in my mind.  What would a better approach have been?

Maybe something like this: Hello, my name is Margaret and I am thrilled you like my book, Now, what is it you have in mind?  How do you see me working with your employees during this closure?

That would have shown a real interest in his dilemma as a human resource person, and also illustrated the fact that I wasn’t just there to tout my book, but rather to be a real help to these men who were being laid off.

Instead, with his encouraging first remarks, I launched into a long history of the book and how it came to be and what it meant to me.  I doubt I let him get in a single word.

Needless to say, I did not get the opportunity to give any seminars. Instead, I got to drive all the way back home again, berating myself for a personality flaw that I knew only too well; one that I vowed to work hard to conquer.

In a way, that day was a gift.  One from which I have benefitted over and over.  It taught me a lesson:  It is never just about me.  A fruitful conversation always includes others, and that requires not so much talking, as truly listening.

I do hope this helps you.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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An Aspie’s Workplace Experience

When he graduated high school, college was not an option. He spent a year going out five days a week with his resume tucked under his arm.  He got two interviews.  No job.

At the end of that year, he heard about a temporary labour agency where you showed up and signed up for the day.  If you got called, you got work and you were paid at the end of each day.

For the following year, he caught a bus at 4 a.m. so he could be one of the first in line for the 5 a.m. assignments.

He had a little experience doing some pressure washing and clean up for his grandfather’s painting company. Eventually he got chosen for some warehouse work, some clean up work and other odd labour jobs.

His favourite was a demolition site where he got to smash all the walls with a sledge hammer.  One company hired him to unload pallets for three months.

Working for the temporary labour company, he learned some important lessons.

  • You don’t get on the bad side of the guy who’s in charge of handing out the jobs.

  •  Working steadily and finishing what you start will get you called back.

  •  Save your money.

When a doctor told him that injuries suffered in a previous accident meant he couldn’t continue to do warehouse work, without serious repercussions, he had to rethink his situation.

He had a friend who worked as a security guard.  He was encouraged by the fact that security guard work involved very little social interaction, and was compatible with his skill set. Using some of the money he had saved, he took a course and became a licensed security guard.

He learned about timing.  He was trying to break into the security guard business in a city that had just hosted the Olympics and therefore had approximately 1200 out of work security guards.

He finally got a temporary assignment; three weeks work.  When he asked around about the possibility of getting a full time job, he was told “none”.

Being an Aspie, he made a point of walking the exact beat assigned by the company.  In his mind, it was a fitness routine and he got paid for doing it.  Bonus!

He performed each of his checks on his rotation, signing off with the date and time at each required location.  None of the other workers were doing this. They ridiculed him for doing so. There was no supervision, it was graveyard shift and there was no activity on the premises.

But he’s an Aspie and that’s what Aspies do.

At the end of the three weeks, he was hired.  Full time. The job was routine, but it kept him fit while giving him a lot of time to think on his feet. Eventually he was promoted to supervisor.

He learned some valuable lessons from his supervisory position.  It taught him responsibility and how to assert himself in a small office setting.

He decided he wanted to be a paralegal.  As a detail-oriented and focused individual, it seemed a good fit.

Working part time as a security guard, and using a combination of student loans and savings, he signed up for the course.

Recently he received his certification and started work in a law firm.

So Aspies, if you find yourself in what is perceived as a no-brainer, low-paying job, do not despair.  Learn what you can. Do your best, and look at the positive aspects of the situation.  What you do with what you learn is up to you.  Who knows where it could lead? It is entirely up to you!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.



Aspies: How to Make Your Point Politely.

“No!” I blurted out.

The professor and the other students in the class stared at me, appalled.  In true Aspie style, I had directly expressed my complete and total disagreement with the lecturer’s statement.

Fortunately, that professor was open-minded and willing to listen to counter-statements, but in many classes that outburst would have netted me a failing mark for the semester.  People in general, and especially those in positions of authority like professors and managers, supervisors and bosses often do not like to hear dissenting opinions.

As Aspies, while we need not ever remain silent when we have an opinion which we wish to express, it is important that we express it in a manner which is most likely to be effective.

Consider this: If your response is considered confrontational, it is likely that the listener will simply shut down and shut you out. Would it not be more advantageous to encourage the listener to engage in dialogue with you?

So what is the most effective way of NOT agreeing with someone’s statement, and at the same time putting forward your own questions about their position?

A friend of mine, when he was in university learned to say, “It seems to me…”  This allowed him to advance his own opinion without either directly agreeing or disagreeing.  The beauty of this opening is that it allows for the advancing of a personal point of view along with evidence that backs up that point of view, in a non-threatening fashion.

“It became a sort of a trademark of mine,” he said.  “And it helped me navigate my way through some pretty touchy conversations.”

I have also heard of a very successful person who, when questioning practices in the workplace, would use lead-ins such as “I wonder…” and “I’ve noticed…”

This is a far less abrasive approach than exclaiming “No!”, or saying something like “Why do you do it that way?” or “Shouldn’t you …?”  Both of which are considered excessively confrontational by non-Aspies. (Go figure!)

When you convey your position in a non-threatening fashion it allows the listener to ask to have it clarified, to assimilate it, consider it, and perhaps ultimately, even to change their position.

Score one for the Aspies!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Five Words That Can Create the Wrong Impression.

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen, I relate how I was often blasted for saying what I thought was expected of me!

Feelings of inadequacy don’t go away easily, so I’m always on the lookout for advice—especially advice related to conversing.  Here according to leadership coach Lolly Daskal of in New York City, are five words to avoid:

  1. Won’t: When you say that something won’t work it conveys a defeatist attitude.  Instead say something like, I have some concerns; let’s work through them.


  1. Maybe: Saying maybe gives the impression of an inability or unwillingness to commit, (not good) and may signify a lack of intention or direction to your listener.  A better approach, if you have reservations?  I’d like to hear (or see) more details first.


  1. Sorry: This is the perfect word if you have an apology to make.  But if you’re asking for something?  Sorry does not belong.  Phrase your request without apology.


  1. Just: When you say, I’m just concerned… you may sound tentative, even apologetic to the listener.  You will come across as much stronger and more confident if you say, I’m concerned….


  1. Usually: This is a word that not only lacks energy, but indicates resistance to change (not that we know anything about that, right Aspies?  A friend bought me a charming new hat and was disappointed when I would not wear it.  I told him Aspies need time to get used to new things. We need to have it around for awhile before we can deal with it emotionally.  The same applies to ideas, changes in schedule, routine, proposed menu—you name it!) So, watch out for the word   It will give us away in the twinkling of its four syllables.  Instead, gather up your courage and say something like, Let’s give it a try. And mean it.


Aspies, I admire each and every one of you.  Thank you so much for following my blog.  I’d love to get your input on my posts, so don’t be shy about commenting!

Remember, just getting up each day and going through the motions is important.  Even more important?  Having a purpose.  Read next week’s blog to learn more about that.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean Adam.

This blog is from material published in January 9, 2017 Financial Post Column by Rick Spence, Free Advice to Live By.

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Young Adult & Adult Aspies: Who Is In Charge of Your Life?

Who will navigate us successfully through life to success?  To achieve the goals we set for ourselves?

Dr. Phil as he is commonly known, says it has to be us.  Nobody else. And he has developed a set of what he calls “Life Laws” which he has used to help many of his clients find their way out of seemingly hopeless situations.

In his book, Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, Dr. Phillip McGraw stresses that what is vital is “…understanding and controlling the cause-and-effect relationships of life; in other words, using your knowledge to make things happen the way you want them to.”

That we are responsible for learning the social strategies that will get us where we want to go, is probably, as Aspies, the last thing we want to hear.

But whether or not you are familiar with Dr. Phil’s non-nonsense TV Show style of therapy, I strongly suggest that every Aspie young adult and adult read this book at least once.

He goes on to state that “We live in a social world.”  This book explains why social skills are key to success and how to organize and manage your life in the direction of your own definition of success.

Perhaps the two most important aspects of this book, are 1) the insistence on one’s duty to self when it comes to learning social skills, and 2) the notion that we manage ourselves.

If you haven’t read this book, you might look at your current self-management strategies and ask yourself:

How’s that working out for you?

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.



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To Touch or Not To Touch? An Aspie Dilemma.

Touch can strengthen relationships, show closeness, and increase co-operation.  This applies to touching in “safe zones”.

So says Laura Guerrero in an April 2013 Psychology Today magazine article.  Touch, Guerrero maintains, is important in developing social relationships.

As Aspies, we often don’t like to be touched.  And we almost never feel comfortable touching others.

So, perhaps more than non-Aspies, we can understand the need to observe the other person’s reaction, of how they respond to your intention to touch.

Do they tense up?  Pull away?  Don’t touch.

Do they relax, seem open to touch?  Keep to the safe zones.

Because touch is the first sense humans acquire, Guerrero maintains it is a key element in building relationships.

Staying within the safety zones, observing a person’s response to your intention to touch, these are key to successful touching.

Do not touch complete strangers, or people you hardly know.  That is an unwelcome touch.

Safe zones are hands, shoulders and arms.

Examples of safe-zone touches?  High fives.  Hand shakes.  Back slaps.  Shoulder taps.

In the office?  Let your manager, supervisor or boss initiate contact, Guerrero warns.

Keep your handshake firm.  Not limp, not bone-crushing.

And when in doubt?  Don’t touch.

Guerrero researches non-verbal communication at Arizona State University and is the author of the book, Close Encounters, Communication in Relationships.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies and Small Talk: Think Communication Bytes.

What is the main characteristic of small talk?

It’s SMALL.  Bytes of conversation as opposed to megabytes or gigabytes.

Keeping it short and impersonal can be challenging when you’re longing to express thoughts and ideas you have harboured inside yourself for so long that they are bursting to come out.  But you must manage your conversations, especially when you are first meeting someone.

Remember:  Bytes.  Little.  Little bits of conversation.

When you are first introduced to someone?  This is not the time to tell them about your fascination with engineering systems, national infrastructure or energetic reactions.  Save those conversations for networking meetings or gatherings of people with similar interests.

Socially?  Small talk is for when you first meet someone.  It’s a time to establish a safe conversational zone for both you and the person who is the object of your conversation.

Topics?  The weather.  Recent outings or vacations.  Current events.  Popular movies.

If the other person takes you deeper into their personal life, political or religious persuasion, fine, let them go on.

But rein yourself in.  Keep your conversation pleasant, interested and attentive.  Excuse yourself politely if you feel you must escape them.

Please remember, Aspies–it’s called SMALL talk.

Yours Truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Two Generations Can Help Each Other

I introduced author John Elder Robison and his son, Jack, both Aspies, to you in the last post.

In the same Pyschology Today  April 13th  article, I found John’s observations of his son’s difficulties with office etiquette very typical of Aspies in the work place.

In the article, Robison explains that he became aware that his son seemed oblivious to his co-workers.  He’d get so immersed in his work that his co-workers felt he was ignoring and avoiding them.

He did not engage in office chit-chat or small talk, and he was unable to recognize when this behaviour was having a negative effect on others.

We’ve all been there!  We go to work to work, right??  Not socialize!  Ah, but then there’s the rest of the world.

People like to be acknowledged.  We sometimes get so focused, we fail to see that.  And even then, we may feel we are much too busy to do anything about it.

Give in, Aspies!  Acknowledging others through a brief comment or compliment is just a necessary feature of being part of the human race.

And getting back to our previous topic of small talk? Office lunch rooms are the perfect setting for exercising your small talk entries.

Note that you should not participate in any disparaging talk about other workers or your superiors.

But safe zone topics?  Like recent outings, current events, the weather, the traffic–they’ll keep you in the loop.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.


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Aspies and Small Talk: Ellen’s Monologue and Bernardo Carducci’s Guide.

I wish I could make small talk, an Aspie recently confided to me.   

Whether we’re visiting family, in a workplace or out with friends, small talk can feel like treacherous ground for an Aspie.  In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I show how impossible it was for me as a teen to make small talk with girls my age.

Nowadays there’s an excellent resource book, Dr. Bernardo Carducci’s Pocket Guide_To Making Successful Small Talk.

And the subtitle is encouraging, too: How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere About Anything.

Some tidbits?  Be nice but not brilliant.  You’re not trying to wow people, just converse politely.

Practice your very brief introduction speech.  Hi, I’m George and I haven’t met you yet.

Join in the conversation with a brief remark on the current topic.  If there is no topic, you are initiating conversation, current events are good.

Rather than just abruptly leaving the conversation, part with There’s someone I must speak with, please excuse me. Or, I must go, but it’s been really nice meeting you.

Get the guide!  I know it will help.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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